The wind is forecast to be southerly for the next few days – so we have decided to go home for a week. The flights on a Friday are expensive, so we have booked for tomorrow, Saturday. That gave us a chance to do a few jobs on the boat, buy a full gas bottle and have a look around Peterhead. The harbour is impressive with huge offshore supply and survey ships and the most enormous trawlers. There is a lot of activity including a massive operation to dredge the main harbour that seems to be causing a lot of disruption as later in the day many of the small fishing boats had to tie up in the marina as the fish quay in the harbour was closed.
It was a good day. After a coffee in the Maritime Academy that overlooks the marina and before walking in to town we watched the local sailing school preparing Topper dinghies ready for some school children, and found that the instructor was Robyn Phillips, daughter of our friends David and Debbie. We had seen them in Torquay, and met her brother, Richard, in Cardiff, so now we have met up with the whole family on our voyage.
The fish and chips in the fish market on the quay in Peterhead were great and Richard says just as good as when he visited with Jim Yarrow and David Legg when they sailed up here a few years ago.
Just some last minute tidying up and cleaning to do before we set off for Aberdeen in the morning.
A “grey” day. It started well enough with a Force 3-4. We left Whitehills early and made good time on a close reach as far as Fraserbrough – but then the wind died, the slop got worse, and the visibility dropped. We had to put the engine on for the next 3 hours. It was uncomfortable, and there was little to look at. Still, the tide was with us, and we were going over 6 knots most of the time so our passage plan worked well. We negotiated the entrance to the harbour with little difficulty, being directed as to when to enter by Harbour Control, and tied up in the marina. Yet again it is a marina that does not cater for larger boats, and we had to make sure that we chose a berth with enough depth. Another boat we had met in Wick was already tied up there, and a small 27ft boat that had sailed with us from Whitehills, followed us in. It’s amazing how you keep meeting up with the same people.
Looking from Whitehills to Banff
There were strong easterly/south easterly winds today and a passage around Rattray Head in wind against tide conditions is not recommended – so we went for a walk instead. The south coast of the Moray Firth has a string of little towns and villages all with little harbours, so it was interesting to walk to Banff and then Macduff. Neither would have been suitable for us. The harbour wall of Banff had collapsed and no boats could get in or out, and Macduff, while deep enough for us, was not really set up for anything but fishing boats. It was good to stretch our legs, but we didn’t find this part of the coast particularly attractive.
By mid-day it had started to rain, so after refreshments in Macduff and shopping in Banff we caught the bus back to the boat. It was the right decision because after fresh prawns for lunch we had a very sociable afternoon in Whitehills. As well as Bertie, the Harbour Master, we met “Fishcakes”. We have no idea what his real name is, but that is what everyone called him. We had already met him in Wick, so he clearly regarded us as friends, and it was difficult to stop him talking. He then introduced us to the local celebrity, Marc Ellington. He was working on an old classic wooden boat and looking very scruffy, but he is a well known folk singer, has been a guest artist with Fairport Convention, lives in the local castle, and is a friend of Billy Connolly – so we are now really mixing in exalted circles! I should have taken a photo, but didn’t think it would be very “cool”. Had a nice fish and chips supper before preparing for an early start the next morning.
Marc Ellington album from 1971
Harvard feels quite small compared to other boats on the Solent, but here in Scotland it is a good size. Scottish harbours are really not designed for large modern yachts with deep draughts and wide beams. There were two yachts of a similar size to Harvard on the visitors’ pontoon yesterday, but late in the afternoon, two larger yachts arrived. We all had to be shoehorned in – so getting out again was potentially difficult – especially early in the morning, with neither of us feeling at our best – but we managed without a hitch.
It was a broad reach/run for the 22 miles eastwards towards Whitehills in about 11knots of wind. We put the spinnaker up for the first time this trip and started making good progress. However, the wind came up, and as the sea got a bit choppy, we somehow managed to get it into a terrible muddle during one gybe. It had to come down and our confidence was rather dented. We gave up and had a slow and rather boring trip for the last few miles.
Entrance to Whitehills
Still it was good that we were in full control of all faculties by the time we reached Whitehills. The entrance is incredibly narrow, with two right-angled bends in the approach channel. It would have been tough without the bow thruster, and almost impossible in a much bigger boat. However, the friendly Harbour Master, Bertie, talked us in, took photos of us, and helped us tie up. It made Lossiemouth look like a doddle!
Entrance to Whitehills Harbour